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Made in America

American Innovators: From Coal Mines to Apple Trees in West Virginia

If there is one thing we know how to do in America, it’s to innovate. And, if there is one type of American we know can get the job done – any job – it is our nation’s servicemen and women. As the state’s across the country evolve and seek economic growth and prosperity in the waning days of declining fossil fuel industry sectors, some are seeing opportunities in often overlooked abandoned mine land.  

One such vanguard – the West Virginia National Guard – is leading the charge to develop infrastructure across the state by turning abandoned coal mines into agricultural bounty. As the coal industry shifted, mountain-top removal flattened the landscape. Now there are great swaths of land lying empty, some with no electricity or water – not the most attractive real estate investment. And with coal production declining over 50% in the past decade, West Virginia could use some investment, in their land, and their workforce. 

That’s exactly what Patriot Guardens aims to do. Through a grant with the federal government, they’re transforming an abandoned mine site into a fertile apple orchard, restoring jobs to the community and revitalizing the land. In a joint effort with the USDA, they’re conducting important research to address food security on a national level, building more resilient varieties of fruit that can withstand the changing climate, so more food can be grown on American soil. 

When Major General (ret.) James A. Hoyer founded Patriot Guardens, people took to calling him “Jimmy Appleseed ” and “Jimmy Greenthumb,” to which he purportedly said: “I’m a two-star general. I know this is going to work. And, it’s the right thing to do.” Hoyer founded Patriot Guardens because he knew at baseline — everybody needs to eat, and addressing food security on a local and national level is implicit to the health of our nation.

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